12 Most Useful Ways Kids Can Learn With Cell Phones
We live in a world that is increasingly mobile. In order for adults to connect with our kids and students, we need to mobilize. Kids love their phones, they are highly motivated to use them (constantly), and they always have them right there with them (if they’re allowed). What a strong basis for an educational tool: empower students to use tools they already own as a means for better education!
The Disney Mobile Cell and Tell survey of more than 1,500 10-17 year-old cell phone users found that teens and tweens like their cell phones perhaps more than other luxuries in their lives.
“If they had to choose between their phone or something else:
● One-third would give up listening to the radio, playing video games or going to the mall.
● Nearly one-fourth would give up their MP3 players.
● One in five would give up TV” (2007)
As a parent, imagine having the opportunity to help your child with their homework by encouraging them to text for help while waiting at the dentist office or on the way to dance class. As a teacher, imagine having a student respond quickly to a reflection-type question from the day’s lecture while checking their texts during a water break at basketball practice. For both, imagine having a mother learning through a text about the vocabulary test in her son’s biology class tomorrow so she can review with him as they drive to karate lessons.
Today’s phones can alert students to study, serve as a smart vehicle to take notes, provide instant, on-demand answers and research, and even provide a great way to record and capture student oral reports or responses to polls and quizzes. The family dinner table is fading, the homework hour is constantly challenged, and we are out and about (with our phones) more than ever.
Parents may need to take the lead in allowing their children to use their phones for learning and in educating their teachers and administrators of the value in working toward acceptable use policies. There are numerous ways educators and parents can empower students with the freedom to learn with a device they love using.
We want to share the ways you can start using cell phones to enhance learning. To follow are 12 of the most useful ways to support learning as adapted from the newly released book on the topic Teaching Generation Text (www.TeachingGenerationText.com). These ideas will help adults discover how to engage youth with fun, free, safe, and easy methods using nothing more than a basic, text-enabled cell phone.
1. Pictures make it real with Flickr
When cell phones have cameras, a new world is opened. Your kids can take pictures of homework projects, research material, field work, activities, etc. for their own use or to share with others. Encouraging students to take pictures of discussion material shared on the board, on handouts if they are going to be doing homework in route, or just to make sure the material does not get lost and stays handy is a great use of the cell phone camera. Flickr provides a free, easy and efficient way to share pictures taken on your cell phone and group them into slideshows based on topic. www.flickr.com/
2. Use an online cell phone notebook with WeTxt
Most cell phones have a notepad tool themselves, but when you want to be able to print notes, organize notes, and keep a running record on your computer, a service like WeTxt offers a free way to add your online notebook and notebook sections to your contacts and you and your kids can text in notes anywhere, anyplace, anytime. www.wetxt.com
3. Capture oral assignments and thoughts with Google Voice
Google voice enables educators to capture voice messages from students without providing them with their direct phone number. The power of this kicks in when you realize that what Google Voice does is actually become a repository for oral reports, assignments, or sound bites. Not only is it a repository, but parents and teachers can write notes on each clip, share, and post them. This is obviously an effective tool for auditory learners. www.google/voice.com
4. Have an expert in your pocket with ChaCha
Imagine having an expert to turn to at any time for information, advice, guidance…for free! That’s ChaCha, an amazing service that will become invaluable to students and parents alike, works on any cell phone with every provider and enables students to ask any question and receive an accurate answer as a text message in just a few minutes.
You may want to caution students/parents that there may be advertising as part of the ChaCha message and teach them to be aware users by disregarding unnecessary inclusions. www.chacha.com or text 242242
5. Get homework help using Google SMS
Even if students are banned from using cell phones at school, teaching them to use Google sms will be powerfully important for students as a homework tool. Even with a text-only plan, Google sms provides much of the vast amount of knowledge and information formerly available to only those with the Internet. Have students enter “G-O-O-G-L-E” in their phones with the number 466453. This is the code that unlocks the key to a world of knowledge for students who will now be able to use their phones to translate languages, convert currency, calculate, define words, find out what’s going on in other parts of the world and much, much more. www.google.com/sms or text 466453
6. Gain collective intelligence with Twitter
Twitter provides a terrific way for teachers and/or parents to get an unlimited stream of feedback from students over a period of time on any subject. Twitter is a great tool to use to share interesting and relevant information with the student body, staff, parents and family. With just one teacher cell phone per class, contributions can be made and modeled anywhere, anytime. Like texting, the beauty of Twitter’s is that its core technology is a device agnostic system that lets the masses participate. www.twitter.com
7. Get feedback on your writing with TextNovel
Few students are given the opportunity to write for a real audience (beyond the teacher). Textnovel.com can change that. When you want to encourage reading and writing, make it available through children’s/students’ phones. Textnovel is the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cellphones Teachers and Parents will need to monitor use of this site. Appropriate use on this and all sites should be discussed. www.textnovel.com
8. Collect and display thoughts and ideas with Wiffiti
Wiffiti allows kids to submit a text message to an online bulletin board. This easy-to-use tool enables your children and students to use the same technology that is viewed by thousands at large-scale events. In short, Wiffiti publishes real time messages to screens anywhere on any screen and this can be a tremendously powerful educational tool. Even when cell phones are banned at school, parents can encourage kids to enhance their presentations and involve their audience for free with Wiffiti. www.wiffiti.com and text 87884
9. Create a phonecast for your report with iPadio
Phone casting provides the ability to easily create and capture an audio broadcast from your phone that can be published and shared anywhere. iPadio is currently one such free option. Just dial in, talk, and when you hang up, Wah La! You’ve created a phone cast that can be broadcast to the world. Have struggling writers create phonecasts with iPadio by telling their story right into a cell phone. www.ipadio.com
10. Give your presentation a face and a voice with Voki
Voki is a terrific way to enable your students to share a message using an animated avatar that talks using their own voice recorded right from their phone. The Voki will increase interest during revision, give students another lens through which they can review their writing, sharpen their speaking and listening skills, and add another creative outlet for displaying their work. Many students are uncomfortable reading their work aloud to the class. Thanks to Voki students can practice and maybe even present through their avatar. www.voki.com
11. Do your own surveys and gather responses with Poll Everywhere
Rather than using expensive and burdensome polling equipment, “clickers,” teachers and parents can empower students to gather information through polling and share their voice using a free service such as Poll Everywhere and Text the Mob, which provide students with a simple method to gather and/or share ideas right from their phones. For example, the information gathered can be used as support in student written reports, feedback for teachers, or for parents planning a fundraiser. The uses are endless. www.polleverywhere.com or www.textthemob.com
12. Be an effective learner with the basic tools in your phone
All of the tools shared thus far are exciting ways to enhance learning through a text enabled cell phone and free services. However, we must not forget that without any service, learning, or set-up, the phones in your children’s and students’ pockets provide a clock, calendar, calculator, notepad, reminder, alarm, and access to you and other “experts”’ who can support their learning. We just need to get past their constant social texting and encourage them to use these tools for school. Putting assignment due dates in the phone, setting up reminders to study, creating mobile study groups, being prepared (never needing a pencil, paper, camera or calculator), and always knowing what time it is are all actions of an effective student and now they can be done on the cell phone!
Supporting kids in using the tools they love for learning makes sense. Educating ourselves about the many ways cell phones can enhance learning and encouraging our children to use these, discover their own, and together involve their school can be a wonderful way to collaborate with children and be more involved in their educational experience. Seeing cell phones as more than a way to check up on them, as more than a distraction, and as more than another bill to pay, can open our eyes to ways to build stronger relationships with our kids and strengthen the home-school connection, while leading the way toward connecting the school world and the real world by embracing the educational power of cell phones.
Featured image licensed via Stock.Xchng.